SPHS graduate Marcos Garcia encourages
Rotary scholars to persevere

May 28, 2014
Santa Paula News

Nine top Santa Paula High School graduating seniors were lauded - and rewarded! - at the May 12 Rotary Club Scholarship Dinner that showed that the best and the brightest remain the hope of the future.

Held at the historic Glen Tavern Inn, scholars and their families enjoyed dinner by Enzo’s and an evening of congratulations as well as cold, hard college cash.

The value of the scholarship was only revealed when the recipient’s name was called, but what the funds - $20,000 total - mean to the future of students was shared by all. 

Senior Anais Olivares was accompanied to the dinner by her mother, 5th grade Glen City School teacher Maria Ruiz; due to work obligations Arturo Ruiz, Anais’ father, had to miss the event.

Anais admitted she was “excited” and pleased at the scholarship as well as her future studying biology at the University of California Merced.

“My ultimate goal is to become a dentist,” said Anais, whose own visits to the dentist prompted her interest with an emphasis on pediatric dentistry. 

Later in the evening Anais was awarded a $3,000 Rotary Scholarship.

This year there were 57 applicants, said Dr. Mike Tushla, “The most I’ve seen in six years,” as co-chair of the Scholarship Committee.

Tushla said he and Co-Chair Steven Jump had to whittle down the applicants to 15 and then again to the final nine following the interviews and other components of the selection process.

“They were all quality applicants, top-notch kids,” said Tushla.

Jump agreed, noting that only a scant point or so separated his top- and 

lowest-ranked candidate.

Club President Rick Araiza welcomed the students and their families and introduced Elias Valdes, who spoke of Rotary and its role as a nonreligious, apolitical worldwide organization working towards the greater good.

Valdes told the graduates to “Thank your parents, they sacrifice for you... and your success will be our success” as Rotarians encourage youth to not only find personal fulfillment but to also give back to others.

Santa Paula Unified School District’s Alfonso Gamino introduced board trustees and noted that as the first superintendent of the unified district he has faced many challenges, but “We’re making decisions that are good for Santa Paula... “

Marcos Garcia, a 1993 SPHS graduate, spoke on the importance of perseverance and its impacts on his own life.

Garcia noted although he graduated 16th in his SPHS class, “No one gave me scholarship paperwork,” and his farm laborer father wanted him to go to work to help support the family.

Instead Garcia joined the Army for the $30,000 educational benefit.

A family man, Garcia credited his wife with steering him back on the path of education when he strayed or became discouraged. 

The veteran of Operation Desert Storm soldiered on: he founded the student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers at Ventura College and served as its first president. Garcia won National Science Foundation scholarships in 2003 and 2004, was awarded SHPE scholarships in 2002 and 2003 and was an Edison Scholar and a Chevron Scholar award recipient, each for two years.

He entered the engineering program at UCSB with the help of  Bob Cota, UCSB MESA Center Director, who had developed a mentoring relationship with Garcia while he was still at Ventura College. MESA is a top national program that supports minorities and girls to achieve in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) studies.

Garcia is now a successful engineer and the youngest ever department manager for a major military contractor.

Garcia told the students to “Keep setting goals,” and once met, “then set more goals... “

Following Garcia’s address, Valdes noted a good example of perseverance is a past Rotary scholarship recipient who is now an honored USC scholar.

The neighborhood the young woman grew up in was a poor one known for problems: “People think of gangs when they think of her neighborhood,” but Valdes said she is a perfect example for scholars that, “Your success is our success... “

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